Deep Waters.  Perths Sunday Times.  July 1st 2001.  By Adam Zwar.

For a man of his star power, John Waters has managed to keep his private life under wraps.

John Waters has had a big day on the hustings promoting his old cash cow, Looking Through A Glass Onion.  There were nostalgic chats about favourite Beatles albums, Hair and The Sound of Music, Bert Newton and Ernie Sigley were visited and Denise Drysdale was next on the list.  Smiles all around.

It was not until lunchtime that a reporter took it upon himself to lower the tone.  After a sip of calming english breakfast, he asked Waters about alcohol and why he no longer partook. The actor and musician pondered the tablecloth for a moment, grimaced and then looked up as if to say "how do you know I no longer drink ?". The reporter had two choices.  He could maintain the confidentiality of his source  or he could come clean and say he heard it on Burke's Backyard.

"mmmm," Waters said, his sturdy voice regretting a recent throwaway line on national television. "Buuuuuuurkes Backyard."

Inpenetrability has always been Waters' strength, but can he seal the leak this time ?  For a man of his domestic star power, Waters' life has been largely unreported. The illnesses which prompted him to withdraw from the Sydney production of Art 19 days before opening night (costing producer David Frost $40,000) and the national tour of The Sound Of Music last year remain undisclosed. There was barely a whisper when his 20 year marriage to actress Sally Conabere dissolved recently. And Jackie Weaver maintains he is the only one of her leading men she has not bedded.

"No, I don't," he says at last, in reference to the drinking question.  When did he give up ?  "Not that long ago."  Why ?  "Time goes on.  You outgrow things, I think."  But actors and musicians are a social lot.  "I find it pretty easy to socialise anyway."  Easier than you would with alcohol ?  "Hell of a lot easier.  I find it much easier to focus on people now."

Waters has brought back Looking Through A Glass Onion, his singing, acting John Lennon tribute, 10 years after it was first performed in a Sydney pub.  He says it was the idea of original collaborator Stewart D'Arrietta to remount the show with the strings of the Dr Winston O'Boogie Quartet, some of whom worked with former Beatles producer George Martin when he came to Australia in 1998 with the All You Need Is Beatles tour.

"Stewart thought the string quartet would enrich it," he said.  "When we started the show in 1992, it was just me and Stewart.  Now we have a four piece band and a mini orchestra."

At 52, with cropped silver hair and a gold ring hanging from his right ear, he doesn't look much like Lennon.  His 184cm girlfriend, Zoe, a Leeds girl who met Waters at Sydney's Star City Casino last year, bares an even slighter resemblance to Yoko Ono.

Waters laments that neither Ono nor any of the remaining former Beatles saw Glass Onion when it played in London's West End in 1995.  "I suppose in the back of my mind when we were doing it in London I was always thinking 'wouldn't it be great if Paul McCartney just sneaked in and sat up the back or something'," he said. "But it never happened."

It was not until Glass Onion reopened in Sydney three months ago that an intimate of Lennon's saw the show.  "Zoe was talking to some people who had been to a restaurant with Lennon's first wife Cynthia," he said. "and they said she had seen the show and liked it.  She had a lot of good things to say about it.  I wish I had known she was there."

Waters came to Australia in 1968 with only a guitar and $90.  He worked on a sheep station before moving to Sydney, where he was working as a storeman by day and frontman of a cover band at night.  He soon heard a US film called Adam's Woman, starring Beau Bridges, was being shot in NSW.  His father, Russell, was an actor in London and young Waters thought the profession might suit him as well. 

"Adam's Woman was an organised tax loss, I think" he said.  "It was a load of old cobblers."  At the end of the shoot the Australian cast members suggested Waters audition for Harry M Miller's production of Hair.  They thought he had the talent and looks for a racy tale about a group of Vietnam draft dodgers.  Miller and Hair director Jim Sharman agreed.
Layers Of Lennon.  The West Australian.  July 7th 2001.  By Michael Day.

John Lennon once sang that he did not believe in magic.  But he may have changed his mind had he been at the stunning opening night performance of Looking Through A Glass Onion.  The spell was cast in the opening seconds when the special new ingredient, the string section, came into play. From then on, Dr Winston O'Boogie's Quartet melded with a tight, totally rocking band to provide a potion that boosted singer and star of the show, John Waters, into another realm of excellence.

Lennon, too, had employed strings in his own recordings, but that ingredient may have been forgotten or taken for granted until audiences see and hear them in live renditions of such numbers as the wonderfully weird Strawberry fields and the vicious How Do You Sleep ?  Musical director Stewart D'Arrietta gave the quartet plenty of space to let rip.

The string musicians, young enough to be the daughters of the original screaming fans, put their heart and soul into their performances.  Sometimes it could have been even better if their sound had been turned up more through the mix. D'Arrietta, complementing Waters on vocals, also sparkled on the keyboards.  Proving a fine comic, he drew lots of laughs from his mimicry of a southern preacher and an alcohol-befuddled hypocrite but made a faux pas with his imitation of a Chinese doctor who did not warrant satire.

Audiences will no doubt be familiar with Lennon's recordings, but nothing can compare with the energy and impact of the live performance from a master interpreter. Waters is not an impersonator but has filtered the songs through his own musical intelligence to give almost similar but unique versions of the brilliant originals.  With his uncanny use of the Lennon accent, Waters tells the story of an angry, complaining, aggressive, witty and sometimes endearing genius who had worked through the pain of childhood trauma to emerge apparently headed towards the end of his all too short life. The treatment by Waters of the illusory nature of fame is a strong point in the script and is relevant to today's increasingly celebrity-focused society.

Most of the audience were of an age to remember the sweet shock of the arrival of the Lennon songs, and they often roared their appreciation at the end.  There was no room to dance in the aisles, but no doubt their inner-hippy was bouncing about. They were treated to Imagine (the anthem of good globalisation), felt the pounding rock power of numbers like Revolution, the sweetness of Julia and Woman, and the compelling, unforgettable melody lines of  Nowhere Man and You've Got To Hide Your Love Away. The audience demanded and received a generous and well natured encore.

This week, when Yoko Ono introduced the the new logo for the Liverpool John Lennon Airport (Motto  Above Us Only Sky) she said: "Thank you very, very much for remembering John and for loving John". After such a treat of a performance  a balm for the loss nearly 21 years ago  Perth audiences will no doubt extend the same sentiments to John Waters and his fellow performers.
Waters is, as ever, a pleasure to watch and listen to. He has an eerie ability, whether singing or speaking, to channel Lennon's Liverpudlian twang, but with a charisma that is all his own.

Waters and D'Arrietta have manufactured a classy tribute to an enduring cultural icon. It is cosy, middle-aged and inoffensive, and thus the complete opposite of the "teenage hedonism" (to quote Waters quoting Lennon) that is the spirit of rock 'n' roll. 

Colin Rose,The Sun-Herald - article undated.

Dear John.  Unknown newspaper, March 2001.
A musical tribute to murdered Beatle John Lennon has acquired a life of its own, writes RICHARD JINMAN. 

John Waters doesn't look much like John Lennon. The 52-year old actor has close-cropped grey hair, a gold earring and the remnants of a rather refined English accent. He looks altogether tougher than the global music icon who was shot dead on December 8, 1980 by an obsessed fan with a .38 revolver.

But sitting in a darkened room at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, his face partially hidden in shadows, Waters is channelling the dead Beatle with an accuracy that sends shivers down the spine. He's singing Lennon's angry ballad Working Class Hero - "as soon as you're born they make you feel small/by giving you no time instead of it all" - and the nasal Scouse accent cuts like a scalpel.

Waters has had a while to refine this impersonation - nine years to be precise. In early 1992 he began performing a show called Looking Through a Glass Onion at Sydney's Tilbury Hotel. Accompanied by his acoustic guitar and Stewart D'Arrietta on electric piano, he performed Lennon songs ranging from the utopian anthem Imagine to more obscure cuts such as Steel and Glass. The music was interspersed with Lennon monologues both real and imagined.

"I took the songs as a template and added a stream-of-consciousness monologue that I wrote myself," says Waters. "I imagined I was a person on stage through which John Lennon spoke as if in answer to unheard questions." To demonstrate, he slips back into his Lennon persona. "The fame was fantastic. All the dope, all the girls and being like the only people in the world who really mattered. Which for four teddy boys from Liverpool was fucking ridiculous, but there it was."

Glass Onion isn't a musical biography. Waters is less interested in chronology than illustrating facets of Lennon's eventful life with his music. For example, the singer's bid to get a Green Card and start a new life with Yoko Ono in New York in the early '70s is underscored by Nowhere Man, a song Lennon wrote for the 1965 Beatles album Rubber Soul.

"Buffed and polished" during two national tours in the early '90s, released as a CD and exported via a three-month run in London's West End, Glass Onion is now being revived at Sydney's Theatre Royal with a full backing band and a string section featuring a bowed double bass. Waters is eager to get back into the role and says the string section adds an extra dimension to many of the songs. Playing Lennon is clearly something he relishes. After all: "a working-class hero is something to be".

Looking Through a Glass Onion (John Lennon in Word and Music)
Where Theatre Royal, MLC Centre, Sydney. When Previews from March 3, opening night March 6. Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets $39 to $54
John, producer Wendi Todd and collaborator Stewart D'Arrietta.
Review - Looking Through a Glass Onion.  By CLIVE O'CONNELL  The Age.  4th June 2001

Looking Through a Glass Onion, Concert Hall, May 31
This show, a tribute to John Lennon, has been around for some time - since 1993 in fact. Sincerity and heartfelt homage characterise the presentation but its final impact is only half-satisfying.

John Waters takes on the Lennon persona, using anecdotal commentaries and observations to lead into a broad selection of songs from the Beatles years and after, although the pre-Help period is under-represented and there are few traces of the more experimental Lennon pieces.

But the central problem I found with the night was its attempt to blend a cabaret-style entertainment with a rock concert.  At times, this fusion worked well enough, where Waters and his cohort would simply cut off the music at a climactic point and the actor would immediately launch into another story.  But often the songs were delivered with a heavy hand, over-amplified to an uncomfortable degree. In some cases, this was justified - Working Class Hero and Isolation can stand up to plenty of belting out - but other numbers substituted volume for excitement, as in a frenetic Revolution where the vocal range proved too demanding and even in a punchy, guitar-heavy All You Need Is Love.

The night's progress is punctuated by the pacifist writer's brutal end. It starts with the bullet shots that ended Lennon's life and then uses the figure of Mark Chapman as a slowly approaching, autograph-hunting annoyance until a blackout leads almost predictably into the program's last number - Imagine.

Glass Onion's intentions are honorable and Waters works hard to present the unfussed, sardonic and anti-intellectual sides of Lennon's personality. He sings competently and enjoys the expert support of Stewart D'Arietta and band, the DrWinston O'Boogie Quartet supplying the trademark string backing.

Still, by standing up as Lennon, impersonating him, Waters takes on more than is delivered.  His powerful delivery style cannot substitute for as engaging and subtle an instrument as Lennon's voice and, while there's passion aplenty, the biting undercurrent of humor is lacking, as is the floating insouciance that could ring changes on every harmonic manipulation.

A few hours after the performance, I recall little of the talking - the tale about boyhood group wanking, several throwaway lines on Yoko, the image of Chapman crossing the street.  The show's value comes in its review of the composer-singer's most accessible and memorable melodies, such as Norwegian Wood, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Day in the Life and Strawberry Fields. 
These songs bring to life better than anything else the Liverpool lad's talent for making simple (and often inscrutable) material into something new, strange, unforgettable.

Asked about his favourite John Lennon song, musical director Stewart D'Arrietta runs through song titles like a jukebox, finally settling on How. "It is one of Lennon's most lyrically beautiful and for me, a guy in his 40s wondering what's next, it's the most pertinent," said Stewart quoting the lines: "How can I go forward when I don't know which way I'm facing? How can I go forward when I don't know which way to turn?"

John Lennon was a man who inspired such passion and devotion that in the end he was killed because of it.

In Perth with John Waters to reprise their stage show about Lennon, Stewart D'Arrietta baulks at any suggestion that he himself may be a Lennon devotee. He cynically describes a "devotee" as a desperate soul searching for a guru - "Someone to lead them out of something".

Stewart is a singer, songwriter and keyboard player who became involved in what he describes as a "joyful collaboration" with John Waters in 1992 in a tribute to John Lennon, Looking Through a Glass Onion - John Lennon in word and music.  Though not a devotee Stewart is a great admirer of Lennon.  "He was a great lyricist, a song craftsman and an advocate for peace," he said. It was Lennon's political beliefs and his radical ideas that revolutionised the music and culture in the 60s and 70s. Stewart believes it was the contrasting personalities of Lennon and Paul McCartney that made The Beatles so unique. And after The Beatles Lennon the peace activist held a Peace and Love rock concert at Madison Square Garden in 1972, giving Vietnam war protesters their anthem, Give Peace a Chance.

The idea for Looking Through a Glass Onion was John Waters'. Despite John's status as one of Australia's most versatile leading men, he loved the idea of doing a solo show and returning to his musical roots - his career started in the '60s as singer and bass player in the rock and roll band The Riots.

With Stewart as musical director and accompanist, Looking Through a Glass Onion started life as a two-man show at Sydney's Tilbury Hotel. With the addition of a band it went on two sell-out national tours before going to London's West End.  At the mention of the West End season both John and Stewart are provoked into using unprintable language. Although a crowd pleaser, the leading British newspapers were vitriolic in their opinions of an "Anglo-Australian" daring to bring a British icon to the British.

"We should never have taken it there," said Stewart. "There was an instant knee-jerk hatred of us. It just dripped off the pages." John has never intended to do an impersonation of Lennon. Glass Onion is an honest and moving tribute that explores the essence of a great musician and 20th century rock star. "I wanted to evoke his honesty, bitter-sweet humour, self-criticism and disdain for pretentiousness and pomposity," John said. "The show allows us to see Yoko through Lennon's eyes; to see The Beatles from his perspective and not McCartney's for a change," Stewart said.

Selecting the songs for the show was not difficult because Lennon's writing was so autobiographical. Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds, Dear Yoko, Grow Old With Me, Beautiful Boy, My Mummy's Dead, Give Peace a Chance and Imagine almost instantly conjure up the important periods and people in his life, from drug taking to his love of Yoko, from his family to his desire for world peace.

For the updated version of Glass Onion, which opens at the Regal on July 4, Stewart has introduced a string quartet, the Dr Winston O'Boogie String Quartet. The name is in honour of one of the tongue-in-cheek personalities Lennon created for himself and also a link to his second name, Winston. "It is wonderful luxury having the depth of sound of a viola, violin, cello and double bass," said Stewart. "They really give a lot more cut to the lines."  

Played at Melbourne Concert Hall, VAC, 31 May - 2 June.  In Perth July 4th to 15th.
Give piece another chance  The Courier Mail - Brisbane.  Alison Barclay.  20th June 2001

WHEN John Waters was 16, someone told him what every teenager in swingin' London longed to hear.  "People would say, 'You sound just like John Lennon', " says Waters who, in 1964, was the front guy for a band called the Riot Squad. "Of course, I took it as a compliment." 

Thereafter he tried to be modest about it and still does. "I have a smaller type of voice," he says humbly. 

But he won't argue against Lennon's influence on everything from his raspy style to the career he has created in the past decade. In 1992, Waters and friend Stewart D'Arrietta penned an evocation of Lennon, Looking through a Glass Onion, and took it on the road. Glass Onion is dominating their little black book again, this time touring Australia with an all-star band, among them Tony Mitchell, who wrote Howzat! for Sherbet.  There is also a string quartet, which Waters hopes will give the Lennon/McCartney masterpieces the lush sound they deserve. 

Long before he starred in Rush and All the Rivers Run on TV, Waters was a singer and bass guitarist. Most of what he knows about music, he says, was learned gigging around with the Riot Squad.  But what he learnt about life, love and politics  well, that came from The Beatles and the mania they ignited.  "When The Beatles came to Australia, I was 15. Right until the time I was 20, that was the Beatles era," says Waters, 52.  "Like a lot of people my age, I thought, 'Here are voices that speak for us, our generation'.  The cultural change that came out of that music has its effect today. There has been a liberalisation of attitudes. The feminist movement went hand-in-hand with that music, as did the acceptance of all people, black, white, gay.  This was something new  for pop singers to be involved politically." 

One of Waters' prized memories is of Lennon and Yoko Ono flopping publicly in bed at the height of the Vietnam War.  "He just wanted to get the word 'peace' in the papers. Peace is a viable alternative but it just gets laughed at."  
Glass Onion opens on a New York footpath in December 1980, with Lennon seeing an autograph hunter coming his way.  This was gunman Mark Chapman. A few hours later Lennon was dead and the mourning had begun. 

Waters is intrigued by fans who confer guru-hood on the rascally Liverpool lad.  "I think people felt a sense of loss because he was one of the great communicators of pop music," he says, "but to look at the person in a properly rounded way you have to look at his down side. Lennon certainly had a degree of natural aggression and a low threshold of tolerance for people he didn't approve of and people who talked back to him. Quite an ego problem, really. My way of dealing with Lennon is to make him accessible no matter how little you know about him. To satisfy the trivia buffs, the facts are all correct, but I never really puncture myth." 

Looking through a Glass Onion, Lyric Theatre, Brisbane QPAC, July 26-28. 
Full marks for Lennon in song The Australian.  16th March 2001.  By: Deborah Jones 
Musical theatre.  Looking Through a Glass Onion.  With John Waters, Stewart D'Arrietta & Band, and the Dr Winston O'Boogie Quartet. Theatre Royal, Sydney; then Newcastle, April 16-24; Perth, July; other centres nationally later in the year.

John Lennon was always the most intriguing Beatle. Was then, still is, 20 years after his death. That's why John Waters can continue to revive his 1992 show Looking Through a Glass Onion at regular intervals. I have nothing against Paul McCartney, but the idea of a musical journey through his life doesn't have quite the same appeal, does it?

Lennon's life from birth to death could well make a compelling conventional musical, but this show isn't it. Waters and musical director Stewart D'Arrietta have taken a much more interesting tack, linking songs with commentary to show facets and fragments of Lennon rather than pretending to reveal an entire history.

The approach lets Waters tell Lennon's story through feelings and ideas rather than a strict chronology of events (he does so in Lennon's voice, which gives Glass Onion its sense of intimacy). The noted wit is ever-present, along with the acute observations that so frequently discomfited the bourgeoisie.

It's such rich material that Waters and his co-producers D'Arrietta and Wendi Todd haven't strayed too much from the show's original austerity. In 1992 Waters and D'Arrietta (on keyboards) did the lot themselves in a small Sydney pub. Now Glass Onion boasts eight musicians (a rock quartet and amplified string quartet), but otherwise there's just a black stage, a microphone and Peter Neufeld's evocative lighting.

All would go for nothing, of course, without Lennon's songs and Waters's delivery of them. Working Class Hero comes early in the proceedings and is almost -- not quite -- as searing as Marianne Faithfull's version. Julia, Mother, Woman, The Ballad of John and Yoko and Crippled Inside -- sung one after the other -- are a mini-biography in themselves, and so many others are seen in a new light, given the context Waters creates.

It's all done with unforced grace and musicianship of the highest order. I don't know how many times I've seen musicals in Sydney's Theatre Royal and wondered at the brutality of the sound. Glass Onion's sound designer and mixer David Cafe has worked miracles. There is clarity in every strand of sound and the whole is exceptionally well mixed.  The formality of a theatre setting isn't absolutely ideal for a show such as this, but it didn't seem to matter. Such is the skill of Waters and company that everyone was soon seat-jiving -- and, by evening's end, standing and cheering. 
Come 2001 and I couldn't resist seeing the new and improved version of Glass Onion.  This time I had front row seats next to the huge speakers - I felt like I was at a full on rock concert !  Especially when the string quartet joined in with Stewarts band and created a huge sound.  Scroll down to see new pics and reviews from the show.
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"My whole career stems from the Hair thing."  he said.  "I'd only ever sung and played instruments in public before then.  And when I started to say words, I found I had a natural facility for doing that as well.  I didn't know how I'd exploit it beyond that one show until Gloria Payten (one of Sydney's pioneering theatrical agents) came along and said she'd get me work in film and TV  which she did.  Its ideal having a foot in both music and acting.  When works a bit thin, I get to chop and change."

Waters starts and ends Glass Onion with Lennon's murder by obsessed fan Mark Chapman with a .38 revolver on Waters birthday December 8 1980. His accent is vintage Liverpool Lennon  although he admits the Leeds drawl of Zoe has been a disruptive influence.

Between singing anthems such as Imagine, Nowhere Man and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds  where he uses a new arrangement by George Martin  Waters speaks Lennon monologues, both real and imagined. "The fame was fantastic," he says in the show.  "All the dope, all the girls and being like the only people in the world who really mattered.  Which for four teddy boys from Liverpool was fucking ridiculous, but there it was."

Waters leaves the restaurant and lights a cigarette.  His glasses are dark, shoulders hunched and smile weak.  The weariness that the actor wears at 52 is similar to Lennon at 32.  For a moment, he is a real Nowhere Man sitting in his nowhere land before a publicist breaks the spell.  "Come on," she says "we've only got 15 minutes to get to Denise."
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Playing together, staying together  by: Ken Longworth  17th May 2001 Newcastle Herald

Stewart D'Arrietta and John Waters met when they were working in a show about John Lennon. And they were in accord about one thing: it wasn't a particularly good show.  It certainly doesn't appear to have been memorable. D'Arrietta refers to it as Imagine, while Waters' CV lists it as A Day in the Death of John Lennon.  Anyway, it was 1985 and D'Arrietta, an accomplished keyboards man, had been suggested for the Lennon show's band by a friend.  
Waters was playing Lennon but he wasn't happy. `The problem was it was very theatre. There wasn't enough of the real John Lennon in it,' said D'Arrietta. 

Waters and D'Arrietta became mates and exchanged thoughts about what a satisfying show on John Lennon should have: the songs, of course, and words which put the music in the context of his life and background.  It was to be seven years, however, before they had the opportunity to put their ideas into practice.  Late in 1992, John Waters had an offer from the Tilbury Hotel in Sydney's Woolloomooloo to stage a show in the pub's small cabaret room. The catch was that the show had to be ready to go on within eight weeks.  Waters contacted D'Arrietta and they got together. 

`John would be writing and I would be piecing the music together on a multitrack.'  The show steadily progressed, as fragments of songs were interlaced with dialogue written by Waters but in the idiom of John Lennon. No attempt was made with the music to emulate the sound of original recordings. It was the exciting essence of Lennon they wanted, not a cut-and-paste biography. 
In December 92 their show, Looking Through A Glass Onion, began a five-week run. Waters, playing guitar, was Lennon. D'Arrietta, on keyboards, provided back-up vocals. 

Looking Through a Glass Onion was an instant success. The two men began planning a larger-scale production, after Waters fulfilled an obligation to appear in a touring Jesus Christ Superstar. 

Waters also had a dream of winning a go-ahead from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, to take Looking Through a Glass Onion to New York. So D'Arrietta headed to New York in the hope of making contact with Ono.  `I spent a month trying to find who was the lawyer for Yoko,' he said. `In the end, she virtually gave us a no. However, while I was there I met British producer Michael White who knew Yoko and thought things could be worked out. In the meantime, he offered us a London season.' 

In preparation for the London gig, the show was restaged at a larger Sydney venue, giving D'Arrietta the opportunity to add two electric guitar players and a drummer to the backing. 

The London season was a disaster, with the tabloids hammering the audacity of a `couple of colonials' for daring to do a show about a British icon.  `It was the same as the reception Mick Jagger got in Australia when he played Ned Kelly,' D'Arrietta said.  So it was back to Australia and a 1994 tour which showed that, in their homeland at least, they were honoured for their achievement. 

D'Arrietta toured with the show again in 1996, this time with Jeremy Stanford as Lennon, and now he and Waters have it on the road again. Since the last outing, Looking Through a Glass Onion has gained more musicians, a string group known as the Dr Winston O'Boogie Quartet. `I've always wanted to use strings in the show. You expand yourself musically working with strings,' D'Arrietta explains. `One problem was to find string players who can work with groove. In a typical Sydney Symphony Orchestra situation, there is no camaraderie between string players.'  Asked whether he had any more plans for augmenting the show's music, D'Arrietta laughed.  `Short of the King Family being the backing choir, this is its final version.' 

Waters and D'Arrietta still hanker to take Looking Through a Glass Onion to New York. `Half the reason for getting it up again was to make another approach to Yoko about doing it there,' D'Arrietta revealed. 

While Looking Through a Glass Onion began the pair's artistic collaboration, it hasn't been their only project. 
They followed it in 1995 with ReUnion, a musical about a '70s rock performer that won praise for D'Arrietta's songs but otherwise sank like a stone. Waters and D'Arrietta had put their own money into it in an attempt to maintain artistic control. They lost a mint. More successful was their next show, Cafe Brel, with John Waters singing the songs of Belgian performer Jacques Brel.  While the intimate 1998 work was a hit, it caused problems for D'Arrietta in the rehearsal phase. `All the lyrics are in French and I can't speak the language for love or money, even though I once lived with a French girl for six months.  So initially I found it difficult knowing where we were in the songs.' 

Stewart D'Arrietta has rarely been at sea musically since he had his first piano lesson at St John's College, Campbelltown, a boarding school run by the Good Samaritan nuns (`A misnomer if ever there was one').  His piano teacher, Sister Anthony, though paralysed down one side as a result of a stroke, was nonetheless adept at bringing down a steel-edged ruler on her pupil's thumbs when he played a wrong note. D'Arrietta noted that, apart from that, `she was a very dear lady'. 

It was the late 1960s and D'Arrietta soon found rock'n'roll. At age 14, he was threatened with expulsion when he was caught playing rock. But the storm blew over and he was soon playing, as a schoolboy, in a band.  From school, he went to Sydney University to do an arts-law degree. But he never practised law, deciding he wanted to be a musician `and give myself a secure future', he laughs. 
Bands, particularly Big Storm, backing groups and piano bars led to his meeting with John Waters. 

Waters, though, hasn't been his only collaborator. He's written a ballet score, Intrusions, for the One Extra Dance Co, several film scores, notably Blood Oath, and he's working with playwright Justin Fleming on Devil's Tango, a musical about a love from hell. 
A fan of singer-composer Tom Waits, he has developed a one-man show that uses Waits' songs. D'Arrietta is trying to persuade Newcastle Civic Theatre director Malcolm Calder to let him premiere the cleverly titled Tom Waits for No Man on the theatre's stage. He was `knocked out' by the atmosphere of the Civic stage when it was used to house performers and audience for a season of Cafe Brel in 1999.  Looking Through a Glass Onion plays at the Civic Theatre from tonight until Sunday. 
Imagine ... John Waters as Lennon: By DENISE EVERTON 6 Sep 2001 Illawarra Mercury

John Waters could never be confused with the former Beatle John Lennon, could he? The obvious answer is no but anyone who has seen the stage production Looking Through A Glass Onion could never dismiss the concept so emphatically. On stage, with shadows from the lighting arrangement fluttering over his face as he explores the essence of the man through song and spoken word, Waters, 52, becomes synonymous with Lennon. He shies away from imitating the artist and cringes (rightly) at any thought that what he does is impersonation, but so emotive is his performance, it lulls the audience into believing anything is possible. 

Such is the strength of this show it has taken on a life of its own, evolving from a fill-in production for the 85-seat Tilbury Hotel in 1992 to a major production featuring a band and string quartet. It has not been a constant process - between 1994 and this year the show was put on ice but the release of the Beatles 1 album and the 20th anniversary of Lennon's death sparked a resurgence of interest. 

Waters wanted to keep the work fresh and challenging so he added a string quartet to his eight-piece band and made a few minor adjustments to the song and speech components of the production. It's a bigger, more rounded production than that which first hit Wollongong in the early '90s but, according to Waters, still retains its trademark intimacy. ``The show remains essentially the same but musically it has developed," he said. ``It's part concert and part biography though it doesn't seek to tell the full story of Lennon's life. I have made one major narrative and one new song change but there was nothing more I wanted to change. ``It's not more wordy but it is more musically complete. It has a really huge sound now and evokes an era of bigger concerts. I wanted it like that and I wanted to be able to take it to bigger rooms so we added the band and now the string quartet so we can take it to venues with 3000 people." 

Waters created Looking Through A Glass Onion with musician Stewart D'Arrietta to fill a spare five-week season at the Tilbury Hotel and it became such a cult hit, they couldn't let it fold. The show toured until the end of 1994 with a four-piece backing band - including a tough three-month season in London's West End - before Waters decided to pursue other options. 

He has filled in the ensuing years with such productions as An Ideal Husband, the one-man, self-devised cabaret production Cafe Brel about Jacques Brel and sung in French and the left-field role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. From October until May 2002 he will also juggle Glass Onion with his role as Mr Robinson in The Graduate. 

Waters wondered if he was making the right decision in revitalising Glass Onion when it returned in March but it didn't take long to realise just how keen people were to embrace the show again. He may even tour it overseas again (pending permission from Yoko Ono) and says taking it to New York's off-Broadway strip would be one of his greatest challenges. Wollongong audiences should be an easier nut to crack. 

Looking Through A Glass Onion is on at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on September 14 and 15 at 8pm. Bookings can be made through the centre or Ticketek outlets.